Gun rights advocates railed against the Obama administration and a failed bipartisan measure that would have expanded background checks on private gun sales Friday during the National Rifle Association national convention in Houston.
Several speakers, including NRA Executive Director Chris Cox and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pounded President Barack Obama for capitalizing on the shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn., to further a gun control agenda.
"When a deranged criminal murders innocent children, they blame us," said Cox, adding that the NRA works to promote gun safety and restricting access to guns to the mentally ill and criminals.
"We've made our country safer and more free by protecting the fundamental right of law-abiding Americans to defend their homes and their families, but they still blame us," he said. "That's because when we see tragedy, Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg, they see opportunity. While we pray for God to comfort those who are suffering unimaginable pain, they rush to microphones and cameras and gather in war rooms on Capitol Hill and scheme about how to use that suffering to push their political agenda."
The NRA, the top pro-gun lobbying group in the country, has been able to win the gun control debate in Washington and the boisterous crowd was in a celebratory mood as they cheered the convention speakers.
Rising conservative star Cruz struck a lawyerly note with a speech aimed at extolling the virtues of the Constitution.
"The Constitution matters," he said. "All of the Constitution. It's not pick and choose. It's not take what part you like and get rid of the parts you don't like. For some reason Obama liberals want to disregard the First Amendment and take away our right to speak and political speech."
Cruz also slammed the president for failing to prosecute felons and fugitives who illegally tried to purchase guns, saying in 2010 of 48,000 illegal gun purchase attempts, the administration only prosecuted 44. Instead, Cruz said, Obama is going after the "constitutional rights of the people who are complying with the law."
"We must do everything we can to stop violent crime," Cruz said. "And yet, in terms of how you actually stop violent crime, the president is fond of using emotion and unfortunately disregarding the facts."
Cruz also vowed to filibuster any gun control bill that comes up in the Senate, which would require 60 votes for passage rather than a simple majority.
Top Democrats have said they will press on in trying to pass a measure and Republican lawmakers who opposed the background check measure have heard from angry constituents during town hall meetings in their home states this week as gun control proponents try to apply deeper pressure.